AND NOW FOR THE SOUP!
SOUP GLORIOUS SOUP is Part 3 of my cold weather food series. If you have not done so already, take a look at the previous two:
Soup, because it is essentially liquid, is an even better deep winter food than a casserole. It can be cooked for longer with more heat energy going into it and it requires even less effort (than a casserole) to digest.
Never underestimate the power within the soup,
and consider also ….
THE POWER BEHIND THE SOUP: STOCK
The key to a great soup is a great stock / broth. Homemade, with whatever vegetables & herbs you have lying around is the best option. And remember, the longer you cook it the better it tastes. Just remember to put the seasoning in right at the end – once all the solids have been rendered flavorless.
Unfortunately, home-made isn’t always possible and you need to reach into the cupboard. I avoid stock cubes as I find them too salty. There are, however, some excellent organic vegetable stocks available, I usually use Pacific brand.
Going beyond pure vegetable stock, BONE BROTH is also both an excellent base and an excellent nourishing soup in its own right. It is also super easy to make.
BONE BROTH MADE EASY
This super-slow-cooked broth can be made using either chicken or fish. Chicken produces more fat, which should be skimmed off and tossed. The fish oil (which is actually very good for you) can be retained.
MY PREFERENCE IS to start with either an organic chicken carcass (or 3) OR use a whole fish chopped up. Oily fish, such as mackerel or barramundi, are good options.
Alternatively, you can cook (serve and eat) the whole fish/chicken in whatever way you would normally do so but retain all the leftover bits – bones, skin, scales, etc
- Put the chicken carcasses, whole fish OR your pile of leftovers in a large &/or deep pot with a tight fitting or heavy lid and cover with water.
- Add in roughly chopped root vegetables – daikon and ginger are particularly good but you can use whatever you prefer.
- Add in any other vegetables that you have at hand or that you think would be nice – I always include onion and garlic.
It’s best to avoid (1) tomato – too acidic – & other nightshades, as well as (2) spinach and any beet style greens – contain oxalic acid which inhibits calcium absorption.
- Add 1 – 2 tablespoons of cider/rice/white vinegar.
This is most important as the vinegar acts to leech the minerals from the bones.
- If using fish, add a couple of sticks of seaweed – washed and cut up with scissors.
I use wakame or dulse as they tend to dissolve away quite well but kombu is also good.
- Cover your ingredients with water.
- Bring it to the boil, then allow to simmer for as long as possible and definitely until all the solids have completely lost their flavour.
Try to keep it simmering for at least 8-10 hours preferably more like 15
- Strain off and return liquid (stock) to the pot. Add a healthy pinch of rock salt and bring to the boil again. This time do so a bit slowly so that you can taste and check your seasoning – this is the time for adjusting it.
- Allow it to cool so that you can skim off the fat.
- The resulting broth can be consumed simply as it is or it can be further enhanced with some miso.
Simply take a dollop of organic UNpasteurised miso paste (anything from a tsp to a tblsp – depending on the amount of soup you plan to have), add a little of the hot broth or hot water to it and blend the paste in, then add more of the broth.
- Garnish with fresh herbs &/or grated ginger, as you wish.
- Pour off what you don’t consume into whatever storage receptacles you choose so that you can keep some fresh in the fridge for immediate consumption &/or freeze some.
BROTH FURTHER ENHANCED: FRENCH ONION SOUP
Bone broth or a solidly cooked vegetable stock can be further developed in either soup or casserole to feature a single vegetable / legume or, as in minestrone, a range of them. A favourite of mine is French Onion Soup. It is a classic, with many versions. This one from the Gourmet Traveller is one of the easiest to follow and works beautifully. This is in spite of – or maybe because of – the large quantity of butter involved.
VERY THICK VEGETABLE SOUP: A COMPLETE MEAL
In the depth of Winter nothing beats a deliciously thick vegetable soup. It’s not a bad idea to have a bit of your preferred protein on the side or some crusty bread. However, it really isn’t necessary and your digestive system will thank you for the simplicity of the meal.
SWEET POTATO & COCONUT
For a meal replacement soup you can’t go past this one. It’s almost like a pureed casserole. It’s so easy to make that I don’t actually have a recipe. This also means that you may need to adjust your quantities (because, the fact is, I just make them up).
- 3 or 4 large kumera (scrubbed not peeled)
- Olive oil
- Toasted coriander seed or dried tarragon
- 2 or 3 large brown onions (sliced) &/or leeks (cut in ½ discs)
- Some cloves of garlic (finely chopped or grated)
- Vegetable stock 1L
- Coconut milk
- Salt, pepper
- Fresh coriander or tarragon
- Put the whole kumera (with skin) on some paper / foil on a baking tray in the oven at 200 deg. Bake until totally soft inside and the skin is a bit brittle and papery.
- In a heavy, preferably wide, saucepan gently heat the oil adding pepper coriander seed/dried tarragon and garlic. When it gets a bit sizzley, add the onion/leek.
- When the vegetables starts to brown, cover well with either water or stock. Bring to the boil and then let simmer till they are completely cooked.
- OPTIONAL STEP: You can leave the contents of the saucepan as they are OR put ½ or all (if you wish) of it through the schwizzer and then back into the pan on a low heat.
- When the kumera is cool enough to touch, split the skin with a knife. Scoop out the contents, mash it with a fork and then add it to the saucepan.
- Add in the coconut milk and the stock. I suggest that you alternate, taste and season with salt as you go to get your preferred balance of both flavor and consistency.
- Serve with chopped fresh coriander or tarragon
ANOTHER THICK ONE: CARROT & GINGER
This is another whole meal replacement type of soup. As with the one above, the vegetables are soundly baked before being pulverised (as opposed to fork-mashed like the kumera). I tend to also bake the garlic – although you can certainly put it in raw. The ginger gives this soup a distinctive after-flavor that is nicely offset by the allspice which I sprinkle on top where it looks lovely on its own or combined with some chopped herbs.
NOTE: although the recipe calls for cream, it is perfectly possible to use coconut milk instead.
COOKING IN THE PROTEIN with SPLIT PEAS or LENTILS
Split pea – or lentil – soup is terrific because then you have your protein cooked into your one-pot-meal and, if cooked appropriately, the peas/lentils kind of disappear into a thickening of the soup. This is a very, very popular soup. It is absurdly easy to find a recipe for it online. However, I’m linking you to this one for a number of reasons.
- Gives both slow cooker and stove top variations to the method
- Gives a few different veg prep options depending on how chunky (or not) you like your soup
- Advocates a nice long cooking time
- Doesn’t suggest that you use “liquid smoke” (I kid you not)
NOTE: smoked tofu is a great substitute for smoked ham/pork that you would find in a classic split pea soup. This way you also get to lift your protein content.
- Has a helpful downloadable PDF that cuts through the prose of the full article telling you how wonderful their soup is. Although the prose does have good tips on how to vary things effectively.
BAKES, CASSEROLES & SOUPS
From solids to mooshy solids to liquids … this is the end of the line for my cold weather cooking series. Unless, of course, you fancy consuming some high nutrient / high energy gas of some sort.
To find a few more Winter recipes along with tips on keeping yourself warm and well through the cold months, check out my very recently updated Winter Resources post.